If a night spent in a five million star pad sounds more exciting than a five star hotel, then bivvying is quite possibly, perfect for you. But if this sounds like mumbo jumbo, then let me explain by bringing you my Alpkit Hunka bivvy bag review.
What is bivvying?
The simplest explanation is sleeping outside without a tent. A bivvy bag protects you and your sleeping bag from the wind, rain and snow, like a drybag.
Why would anyone want to bivvy?
Indeed. Why anyone would chose to spend a night outdoors over the Netflix and chill option will always be a mystery to some, but for others, like me, full moons, meteor storms, starlit nights and early morning sunrises are more fun than a quickie on the sofa.
For bikepackers, or anyone going on an adventure, choosing to bivvy is a way to save weight and is less bulky than a tent.
Using the bivvy method is quick and easy to set up and you don’t have to worry about being able to hammer in pegs (like you might do when faced with pitching a tent on a rocky surface), unless you want to use a tarp for additional protection.
A major plus of the bivvy is that you need minimal gear so you’ll feel like an intrepid explorer. Less kit – more kudos. Ask any self-respecting millennial and they’ll tell you their life is about experiences, not stuff, and Instagram followers – hashtag whatever.
You can read the pros for wild camping with a tent or a bivouac here.
What equipment is needed for a bivvy?
Sleeping mat – This provides comfort and insulation. I use an Exped Synmat UL 7.
Sleeping bag – I use a Cumulus Lady 500, now renamed as the Criterion Lady 500.
Warm clothes – mostly merino wool layers and a down jacket plus a hat.
Bivvy bag – Dan and I both use the Alpkit Hunka Bivvy Bag. Mine’s red, which Alpkit describe as chilli and Dan’s is blue, or lego as it’s officially named.
Optional – Tarp. We use an Alpkit Rig 7 tarp, which is large enough for two.
Alpkit Hunka Bivvy Bag Review
We’ve been using our bivvy bags for a few years now and this is what we’ve found.
The Good stuff
It packs up nice and small in its very own little integrated home, which is wonderful if you’re an untidy camper. No need to go looking for some cute little drawstring sack when you’re up before dawn freezing your nuts off.
Advertised as weighing in at under 400g, both bags excelled in the weight category. The red bag hit the scales at 336g and the blue a little more at 348g.
At £40 for the standard Alpkit Hunka, or £55 for the XL version, it’s well priced for anyone on a tight budget. And if you want to camp mostly with a tent, saving the bivvy for those once in a blue moon nights, then you’ll not go far wrong with this piece of kit.
Because this feature depends on who is inside the bag, I’ll give you an idea of our respective sizes.
Me: 5’ 2” (158cm) although I think I’m shrinking because I’m sure I used to be 5’3”). I weigh 58kg give or take a kilo depending on how many times I succumb to a plate of chips or slices of cake.
Dan: A smidgen under 6’ (182cm) and weighs 95kg (down from 101kg since cycling around Cuba).
I like to wriggle when I’m tucked in for the night and there’s plenty of room for that and loads of space to wrap my arms around myself (because I do that too) and there’s no feeling of restriction around the shoulders. Dan reports that he has ample scope for movement and finds the bivvy bag voluminous enough for his frame.
I use the hood to store a dry bag stuffed with clothes as a pillow, then I wrap the dry bag with a top so it feels soft against my face (that’s the diva in me) and it’s handy to have a spare layer to hand in case it gets a bit chilly in the night. I’ve slept out at -10C and felt warm enough.
Waterproofness and breathability
I’ll be brutally honest with you. I hate the rain and the last time it rained when I’d planned to bivvy, I bailed out. So you could say I failed. However, I can confirm that the bag keeps out heavy dew, and light rain.
Condensation inside the bag is minimal providing you don’t close the opening too tight. There are two separate drawstrings; one in the hood and one across the chest.
Now the thing is, Alpkit’s bivvy bag is advertised as waterproof to HH 10,000 mm, which means the fabric has been through a Hydrostatic Head (HH) test where its resistance to water pressure from a vertical column of water is rated in millimetres.
Suffice to say, that this rating means it’ll keep the rain out in all but the heaviest of downpours.
If you’d like to see this test in action here’s a little Youtube video.
On a note of caution, without additional shelter such as a tarp, your face will get wet and water will seep into the bag because this is a hole through which you need to breathe.
Not so good
Getting into your sleeping bag through the opening of the bag takes practice; a bit like putting on a condom with one hand; awkward but the rewards are sweet.
For anyone who needs to go to the toilet halfway through the night, you’ll have to perform previous action more than once or else learn how to act like a corpse in order to prevent your bladder from bursting – but you know this already.
Being small, I find that I disappear down into the bag when I tighten the hood to protect myself from biting winds, and wake up feeling slightly disorientated.
When the ground is wet or it’s bucketing from the heavens, using a sleeping mat with grooves, (which is what I’ve got) is not such a great idea because it will get wet. And will be wet when you unpack it later to use on the following night. To combat this, I put my mat inside the bivvy bag and climbed inside.
Bad idea. I felt like a baby wrapped in swaddling blankets and getting out felt like a time when a midwife should be called. Needless to say, Dan didn’t even attempt that feat.
If you want to put a sleeping mat inside your bivvy bag, the XL model is bigger and should work. I can’t say for sure because I haven’t tried that yet.
Great value and perfect for the beginner or occasional user.
Share your thoughts on bivvying in the comments below.